November 2008 Archives

When the Water Cooler Runs Dry

Last month at the office, the water cooler ran out and we had to wait three days for a fresh supply. To avoid the dreaded tap water, I brought two water bottles to work, filled with filtered water from home. This got me thinking about how this ubiquitous office perk is such a big deal, while we in the US have perfectly safe tap water. In fact, Seacology has provided 14 fresh water delivery systems to communities that do not have safe and reliable sources of drinking water.

Flooded Water Pump.jpgIn many places around the world, safe water is impossible to find. When I lived in Samoa, the campus had a filtering system and we boiled or treated our water with iodine. It wasn't as dire as in Uganda, where I brushed my teeth with mouthwash instead of water. And travelers can barely touch an ice cube or fruit juice in countries like Mexico and India. The picture at right illustrates one of the problems water shortages can cause: here, a boy in West Bengal, India is pumping water in a flooded area. The Water Encyclopedia says that "floodwaters can contaminate cisterns and improperly designed wells, compounding problems caused by river currents and inundation." And yet here in the United States, we hardly consider what it would be like to live without our tap water - and we still buy expensive bottled water because "it tastes better" or we like the commercials or the pretty packaging.

This year Seacology launched our first project in Kenya, on Wasini Island, where there is no known natural source of fresh water.